This year's first nominee for the 2011 Social Media "Oh No You Didn't" Award goes to Commonwealth Bank in Australia.
The Australian newspaper titled its coverage of the story, "Bank Threatens Staff with Sack Over Social Media Comments." The gist of the story is this...Commonwealth Bank published a social media policy that essentially "deputized" employees with the mission of reporting and eliminating any adverse social media comments - or possibly face the executioner (Human Resources Manager).
According to the published story, "bank employees have been told they must immediately notify their manager if they become aware of 'inappropriate or disparaging content and information stored or posted by others', including non-employees, in the 'social media environment'."
The policy holds employees accountable for the actions of third parties. According to The Australian report, the policy state: "For example, your friend could post an inappropriate comment about the group on your Facebook page or create a blog about the group."
As if holding employees accountable for the acts of others isn't bad enough, the policy then goes on to state that "failure to comply with this policy is a serious disciplinary matter and may result in disciplinary action being taken against you, which may include the termination of your employment."
Sounds to me like whoever drafted this policy did not have a good understanding of how social media works. But even worse, this person did not know the advantages that comes with openly addressing criticism.
Back on December 17th I posted "Firing An Employee Bad Mouthing the Company on Social Media? Better Think Twice." While the December 17th post relates primarily to U.S. incidents, there is much that applies to any locale. As such, it was no surprise when the Australian Finance Sector Union demanded suspension of the bank's new social media policy, accusing it of trying to restrict freedom of expression.
Quite honestly, I was shocked when I heard about this incident. At this stage in the game most corporations should at least know the basics of social media and employee relations - or at least ask someone that does before putting out such a draconian policy. On the other hand, I suppose this need for education bodes well for me as just last month I released a new book, "Human Resources Guide to Social Media Risks" (shameless plug!).
I hate to break it to Commonwealth Bank but they just made it onto every social media consultant's Powerpoint deck. I'm sure the story does not end here. Let me know what you think and hear.